Ask A Conservator Day 2022

On Friday 4 November, conservators around the world - including Conservation Students and Tutors from West Dean College of Arts and Conservation - participated in Ask a Conservator day. A day that encourages international collaboration and knowledge exchange using #AskAConservator. 

School of Conservation students and tutors across Furniture, Clocks, Ceramics, Books and Metals pathways participated via the College's Instagram, answering questions and sharing experiences in the Conservation sector. 

In case you missed it, we've collated some of our highlights from the day: 

Books and Library Materials 

What was it that made you decide to study conservation? 

Books Conservation Subject Lead Leonor Loureiro: The possibility to join two areas that I love: science and the arts. 

What’s the most unusual item/story connected to an item you’ve conserved? 

MA Conservation Studies student Amelia: In my previous job, I made a mount for the earliest known printed Japanese manuscript from the 9th Century. 


Can I study conservation without previous experience? 

Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies student Chris: Yes, you definitely can! I didn’t have any experience with metalwork before starting here. For my portfolio I included things that used similar skills and hobbies that showed my interest in conservation and practical hands-on work. For example I worked in design before coming here. 

What opportunities are there for work placements? 

Metals Conservation Subject Lead Kate Jennings: During the MA programme, there is a 6 week placement, tutors are always happy to help students to find placements and internships during and after studying. Previous metals work placements include: Historic England, National Museums Scotland, Hall Conservation and V&A Museum. 

What are your most used tools? 

Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies student Lauren: For surface cleaning, we are using these a lot; a scalpel, a swab, glass bristle brush and pot of solvent. 


What’s on your workbench at the moment? 

MA Conservation Studies student JC: On my workbench I have got a 1830s chronometer carriage clock. It’s a really fine example of a clock from that period. It is in pretty good shape, but there’s some work to be done on the escapement, like making a new screw and working on the escape wheel teeth. 

What would be your dream object to work on? 

Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies student John: The Astronomical Clock of Strasbourg 


What is the most fun part of conserving a piece of craftsmanship? 

MA Conservation Studies student Chris: The before, capturing it before conservation, and then the end result of the treatment I have done. 

What would be your dream object to work on? 

MA Conservation Studies student Abi: Being at West Dean I’ve been able to study the art of Sadeli micro-mosaic on decorative objects and pieces from Persia, and so my dream object has been this Anglo-Indian sewing box. 


What’s the most unusual item/story connected to an item you’ve conserved? 

MA Conservation Studies student Elizabeth: This 16th century Maiolica dish with previous repairs with rivets and overpainting. It’s really interesting because it used to be a vase that was cut in half to be a dish. The dish is part of the collection at the Russell Cotes Museum. 

What were you doing before studying conservation? 

MA Conservation Studies student Elena: I worked as printer based in Shoreditch, London, and I worked in that job for a couple of months before covid, and during covid I began finding out about conservation as a field in general and then began looking more and more into how it could be a career for me, so after putting feelers out, I was recommended to come to West Dean. As I’ve not got a heritage background, I have an illustration background, I wasn’t quite sure if that would be applicable, but what’s good about West Dean is that they take in a variety of people with different experiences and backgrounds. I sent in a portfolio of my illustrations and my previous academic work and I got in. 

What would be your dream object to work on? 

MA Conservation Studies student Lucie: Any religious statues of artefacts, especially from the Sistine Chapel. 

Study Conservation

Find out more about studying conservation with us at our upcoming Open Day, Friday 25 November. Register here